The Best CMS & Website Builder for B2B Marketing Teams
Where Do You Build Your Website?
So What’s a CMS?
Our Pick: The Winner
How to Pick the Right CMS for You
The Largest CMS: Wordpress
Is Wordpress (.org) Easy to Install?
Where Does Wordpress Fall Short?
Where Should You Build Your Website?
You’re working on a marketing team and you don’t know how to code, but you’re in charge of making updates to the website. This is a common situation in 2020.
There are countless websites about which CMS to use.
There are countless threads on Twitter, Facebook, and on Slack channels about which CMS to use.
How do you choose?
We wrote this guide because we feel like those other guides and discussions miss an important element. They aren’t written from the POV of a B2B marketer. If you are a front end dev or small business owner, your needs are very different than a B2B marketer who needs your website to function as one of the central pieces of your martech and acquisition stack.
A marketing team needs its website to be low code or no code but still provide enough functionality to seamlessly integrate with the rest of their marketing and product tech stack.
Enter the CMS.
So, What’s a CMS?
A CMS, or content management system, is the top term that takes on many variations. It’s also heard around the watercooler as a website builder, website platform, site builder, or many other keyword variations depending on the niche and target audience.
They all enable you to build, edit, and update a website with one goal: Seeing the least amount of code or ideally, no code.
No-code started with the rise of teams building and working the web, and the amount of time and resources needed to build out web components. Developers are expensive, sprints take time, but scale needs to be fast and marketing teams are under more pressure than ever to take ideas and test all the levers they have access to for growth - many of them without development experience or a developer on their team - enter no-code.
No-code platforms enable anyone who isn’t a developer to be able to ship website changes and test ideas without having to be involved in full-scale development practices.
Our Pick: Webflow
Webflow is a relatively new kid on the block but it has taken the internet by storm. But we aren’t ones to fall for hype and that's not why we picked it. Webflow is free for life if you’re okay with keeping your site on a webflow.io URL. The moment you connect your own custom domain their pricing starts at $12.00 a month, which is comparable to self-hosting on something like HostGator. Typically hosting (buying space on a shared server to house your website) costs $7 to $12 per month. Other options range from $30 to $300 per month.
(Read more about Webflow)
How to Pick the Right CMS for You
Our recommendations for which CMS is best for B2B marketing teams was based on a fairly large list of considerations. Here are a few questions you should ask yourself as you’re getting started:
- Is the CMS easy to update? [So marketing teams can easily make changes]
- Does the CMS allow custom scripts or integrations? [So marketing teams can integrate with other tools and add conversion pixels without a hassle]
- Does the CMS load quickly? Or how are they improving? [Faster loading sites lead to a better UX as well as SEO]
- Is the CMS SEO-friendly or do they have plugins/integrations to help? [Because what marketing team wants a website that Google can’t even index?]
- Is the CMS easy to use for non-technical people? Do you need a web development Bootcamp to operate it or can everyone on your team log in and make updates? [What if you wanted to change the headline or do an A/B test on header images]
- Are there templates available to start out with and get up and running? [It offers a faster time to market to customize existing templates as a design baseline]
Why is this important? In our opinion, marketing should own the website. It is a marketing asset just like any other.
You don’t want to ask the VP Engineering for development resources every time you want to update the website or publish a new blog post or add a script. Too many times as an in-house marketer, I’ve seen engineering teams be responsible for the website but they don’t want to maintain or update it because it is not a product/engineering priority. Meanwhile, marketing is stuck because of a lack of resources.
We’ve taken all of the above into account with our CMS tests. How each one fared is outlined below.
The Largest and Default Choice for Most: WordPress
Before we get into WordPress, a quick note:
Wordpress.org vs Wordpress.com
There are two versions of WordPress you can use. Wordpress.com is just a blogging platform and is free to use. This is a hosted version of WordPress, meaning you sign up and start blogging.
However, it has some large limitations such as:
- It's more suited to blogging and is not a full-blown CMS
- It’s hosted and managed by WordPress servers so you don’t have access to logs
Wordpress.org is the open source CMS platform, home to the type of Wordpress that you can install on your server. It is the one that’s used widely across the web.
Most hosting configurations have WordPress available as a one-click install which makes it an easy go-to option when you start with most hosting plans.
WordPress is Popular
The most popular CMS by far is WordPress. WordPress powers over 35 percent of the web from small blogs to The New York Times. That's an insane percentage of the open web! WordPress has been around since 2003 and it is open source. You’ve probably been on a WordPress website today and didn’t realize it.
Is WordPress (.org) Easy to Install?
Usually. The kicker with WordPress is you must have a hosting account somewhere. This requires hosting on a site like GoDaddy, Bluehost, or SiteGround. If you’re looking at scaling or worried about managing updates and patches, there are managed hosting services available for WordPress like WP Engine but it costs a bit more than self-hosting WordPress.
After choosing your hosting provider, you need to:
- Choose and install a theme
- Install and configure plugins
- Install page builders
- Connect your analytics
- Connect your CRM and marketing automation system if needed
- Set up users
- Configure a staging server
- Install security plugins
- Test for speed and technical SEO
Wordpress can be a powerful tool for any organization and that’s one of the major reasons it’s been around for so long. It is quite a Swiss army knife but you need to know how to use it and use it to your advantage. It also helps to know some code, too.
Favorite theme? I love a theme that’s slim and doesn’t come with any extra pieces you’ll buy at ThemeForest. Hestia is a great slim go-to, as is Generate Press. They’ll get you started and you can configure the branding/colors to get you up and running quickly.
The largest update Wordpress has made is Gutenberg, their new editor which is very usable now after a few version updates. They’ve really hit on a useful addition to the Wordpress universe. When they first did the update, it broke quite often. Many of the themes and page builders broke because they were not compatible with the Gutenberg editor.
Where does Wordpress(.org) fall short?
Wordpress started as a blogging platform. That was its original core and that is still its main intent. Most Wordpress websites look like Wordpress websites, even with all of the added plugins and options.
Wordpress also requires ongoing maintenance: plugins need to be updated, the core needs to be updated, the PHP needs to be updated. WordPress can also become really bulky and slow. The more you add to it, the more it can lag, so make sure to disable the plugins you’re not using and delete themes that are not activated on your site.
• Used for more than 35% of the web
• Very powerful
• Lots of installations and updates needed
Webflow has a web interface, so you don’t need a separate hosting account. Unlike Wordpress, you just log in at webflow.com to your website and enter your updates. Webflow also manages the backups of your site, gives you undos/redos of any changes, and provides preview ability on multiple screens -- all of which require plugins in WordPress. This is all within their interface and you don’t have to touch the code.
Webflow is the easiest site builder I have ever used. It's like WordPress and SquareSpace had a beautiful child. It feels like you’re in Adobe-level software, without the starburst functionality. Even as a developer, they have found a wonderful marriage of showing you the elements required to create layouts but not make the user feel overwhelmed by what they’re looking at.
One caveat: It does help to have some development knowledge as you can’t drag elements anywhere, because of the Webflow rules like Flexbox/Grid etc. They enable responsive design from the ground floor of anything you’re building, they use a grid system you can turn on or off, and they can teach you what Flexbox is with their incredible university (or you can click around yourself), all without touching a line of actual HTML/CSS.
As an SEO practitioner, I find their options really helpful. No CMS is going to be perfect, but Webflow strikes a wonderful balance of giving everyone enough access that all marketing teams will all be satisfied with.
Their system is a huge step in the “no code” movement and the power of Webflow has yet to be fully tapped. If you’re looking for a taste of what Webflow can *really* do, check out this prototype of Civilization with Webflow. I asked him directly and he did it with no code. Incredible.
Lastly, Webflow has a really long list of integrations, the key to any modern CMS. From Hubspot to Mailchimp, Shopify, Zapier, Hojar, and many more, their library is only growing and you always have the HTML module available in their builder where you can place code.
Webflow pricing starts at $12 a month and goes up to $36 a month.
• Easy to use
• Great options for all types of marketers
• Leader in “no code”
Squarespace is a real contender in the CMS world and of all of the options we tested, Squarespace spends the most on marketing. It’s estimated that in the first half of 2019 that Squarespace spent approximately $108 million in advertising.
It is easy to get up and running with a Squarespace site. But the kicker with Squarespace is that you’ll start paying the moment you push the publish button. There are no free subdomains like Weebly or Webflow or Wix – the 3W’s of CMSs right now – with Squarespace, you’re in with your wallet from the get-go.
I’ve used Squarespace before and they go to great lengths to have you not look at code, which is great for anyone with limited know-how of how websites work. However, I spent more time than I’m comfortable with looking for how to see the code of my Squarespace website.
Honestly, Squarespace is a lovely place to spend time. They’ve put a lot of time and effort into building their platform and it shows. It’s easy to work with, there’s a lot of options and they make it easy to get to all of them as long as you’re not looking for the actual code. I could spend days clicking around in their interface. It’s really easy to use and I’d really love to keep it if it wasn’t for their 14-day trial that ends far too quickly.
• Simple to start
• Limited trial period
• Not as many customization options as Wordpress
Weebly used to have a reputation as the Geocities of website builders. I am a lover of Geocities, but it was quite limited, and Weebly is as well. They seem to have rebranded and put some time and effort into their system and it shows.
With Weebly, you can get a free subdomain which made me feel very sad because my name was gone, as was my alias. Both were taken up by broken websites that look a bit better than a Tumblr.
In my time testing it out, the system had errors quite a few times, all of which were fixed after a few times clicking buttons. Even with the upgrades and rebrands, the system felt clunky.
There is no grid, so lining up things becomes a bit difficult. But there’s no undo button, which is bothersome.
Their Professional plan starts at $15 per month with an annual purchase (otherwise it’s $20 a month), and that allows you to connect your own domain, gives you a free domain for one year, unlimited storage, and a few other small things that all the other services provide as well.
All in all, it took me 10 minutes to build a site. If you’re looking for a quick way to get up and running and aren’t looking to scale out, then Weebly could be a good solution for your business or marketing team.
• Limited functionality
• Many errors
• Hard to scale
Maybe you’ve seen Wix commercials before a YouTube video. Or Karlie Kloss talking about how she loves Wix.
Wix lists themselves as a “cloud-based development platform” and has a lot of elements, such as page “transitions,” popups with endless “help” screens, and a lot more. Everything in Wix feels manufactured to make you upgrade or spend more money. If you’re not watching close enough, you’ll have clicked through five screens and input a lot of information before realizing that you’re about to spend money or hire someone to do the work for you.
Wix’s prices start at $14 a month for entrepreneurs and freelancers as with the free version you can’t add tracking and a giant list of other things.
Wix does have a connection that’s really nifty and that’s CORVID. CORVID allows you to perform development within the Wix editor and is actually pretty powerful. But as a beginner, you wouldn’t know what Corvid does or how it can actually help you. Wix also provides a release candidate which is really helpful. It publishes the site as a test version and not on the live version – essentially a staging site.
I’d put Wix in the same category as Weebly, but a bit higher. It doesn’t feel like you’re building on Geocities anymore, but you’re sure not building in 2020 on Wix.
Wix runs an annual SEO competition, and last year an SEO consulting agency won. As far as implementing SEO in Wix you have access to all the basics, but none of the frills.
Implementing anything beyond that is not available in Wix. Their URL structure is a bit odd, you can’t put in customizable HTML and CSS, and you can’t update or edit the robots or sitemap files.
• Access to basic web functionality, but none of the frills
• Limited customizations
• CORVID platform development
Ghost’s pricing starts at $29 a month when paying annually and includes a custom domain, CDN, backups, and SSL. Ghost’s core is that they’re a blogging platform. They’ve put a lot of work into it over the years and it shows. It’s really well done and is easy to update and manage.
Ghost has templates, but most of them are paid and they link to either a Github link, Themeforest, or a third-party site, which means you need some know-how to install and run these themes. Otherwise, you have the default theme which does provide some customization.
As far as integrations go though, the world is your oyster with Ghost. They have a full directory that includes everything I was looking for, so review it yourself. Ghost focused their time on the core system – their publishing platform. They’re up version three and it works really well, but if you’re looking for drag-and-drop functionality–Ghost is not your system.
The platform focuses on creating content over design elements. Although the default template looks wonderful, and gives you some options to change, it’s still the same template many of the Ghost users are (probably) using unless they have development help.
If you’re a developer or working on a marketing team with development help, this is where Ghost really shines. You can install Ghost on your own server and that’s free. They have extremely extensive developer documentation and you can tell from their website that they’ve put a lot of time and focus into the development side of the platform.
• Use on your own server
• Helpful developer documentation
• Easy to update and manage
Unstack is billed as a website and landing page platform. It feels more like the latter, with the price tag of the former. Their onboarding is really clean, their emails are friendly, and they really want you to join their Slack and help grow the platform.
Navigating updates and moving things around is very easy and intuitive. Also their designs are really fresh and up to date, which after spending time in Wix and Weebly was a breath of fresh air. Everything is laid out really well and organized.
What got me is their pricing, as it’s above what the others are charging. It starts with $29 a month with “basic integrations” which includes Google Analytics, Facebook Pixel, HotJar, Google Tag Manager, Stripe Sync, and something called Rewardful.
If you want to include Mailchimp, Klaviyo, ActiveCampaign, or Hubspot you’re up to $49 a month (unclear as to whether you can use GTM any of these, as really that would be easy to accomplish).
The building of your site seems to be free, but if you want to do anything above that, it’ll cost.
Creating and submitting a sitemap to Google? Upgrade. Start a blog on your site? Upgrade. Adding an SSL to your domain? Upgrade.
I have never seen so many upgrade buttons and to be honest, it was quite alarming. Lastly, Unstack was the only CMS listed here that didn’t provide images from a third party for free, or I wasn’t able to get them working, even though Unsplash was listed. It’s a small thing, but if I’m paying more than the others, I feel like that should be included as well.
• Easy to navigate and publish
• Great flexibility for blogging and landing pages
• Higher pricing for upgrades
For Duda, I had really low expectations but have been pleasantly surprised. Their editor is aimed at the balance of coding and visual design. It really emphasizes the variables that developers face with screen sizes and comments available as well as access to multiple sites within the Duda platform.
When you sign up, you can create a site with live subdomains, such as https://seoconsultant.multiscreensite.com/ – which is interesting. I assume that was an SEO decision to not connect the subdomains to the Duda domain and go with the multiscreensite.com domain, but that’s just my perspective.
Duda includes everything you’d expect from a site, from SEO capabilities to imagery, ecommerce, backups, and even progressive web applications. Pretty nifty.
I really liked spending time in Duda and loved looking at the code side of whatever I was building. Their code is clean, their interface for building it is clean, their dashboard for managing the sites you are building is clean, and they don’t push you to upgrade throughout the platform. Even their pricing isn’t too high, as it starts at $14 billed annually.
Duda is built for web developers or agencies who want to build websites as their living, but with limited coding experience. It’s a really pleasant place and pretty reasonably priced if you want to use it to build a marketing site there as well.
• Great for zero coding
• Clean and well-designed themes
• Lots of functionality
A Note on Other CMS Platforms
Hubspot is a marketing automation platform that also has an attached “CMS” for landing pages, blogs, and websites. Their CMS Hub starts at $300 per month. It seems steep compared to other options but when you consider the full Hubspot Marketing Suite is $800 per month, the CMS Hub offers a lot of the functionality at less than half the price.
But we don’t recommend it.
If you are a Hubspot customer, using Webflow or Wordpress as your CMS works just as well while keeping landing pages in Hubspot.
Editor's Note: Here’s a dissenting view provided by Alexandra Sifton
CMS Hub is a great option for businesses whose marketing and sales processes rely on content. If you currently use the Hubspot platform and are using paid ads driving to eBooks, webinars, and more or via a blog and long-form content and optimization, the CMS Hub is a great plug-and-play solution.
Nurturing contacts is a breeze, and you gain additional insight into a prospect’s behavior. While it isn’t a straight drag-and-drop interface, Hubspot and Hubspot agencies can help you move to the platform with ease, typically in one or two months. Marketers will have no issue working with existing templates to modify the content with ease. Forms and CTAs provide additional tracking and trigger opportunities. Plus, their support is on-point, so if you hit a wall, just shoot them an email, call them, or send a chat. You’ll typically get solutions or answers the same day.
Uberflip (until recently) did not use the word CMS on their website, but it is solely aimed at marketers. It is not a “website builder,” but more like a blog so it's easy to be confused (which is why we like to differentiate between the two terms). Uberflip pricing starts at $1200 per month and it is aimed at enterprise companies with lots of technical, security and infrastructure requirements. It is not a replacement for WordPress or Webflow - you still need something to point your domain to. An Uberflip hosted blog can then live on https://blog.yourwebsite.com.
Uberflip bills itself as a destination (for campaigns) versus a landing page. Uberflip integrates out-of-the-box functionality with a lot of marketing technology, offers built in CTAs and forms, and can send additional data to those systems, such as which posts were read, engagement rates, and more for better reporting.
Similar to Uberflip, PathFactory is a replacement for your blog, not your website. Both systems are aimed at primarily content marketers on B2B marketing teams, along with auxiliary audiences such as operations and demand generation. PathFactory focuses on “binge consumption” (like you would for a Netflix show) for surfacing relevant posts as prospects engage with your content. PathFactory also has a similar price range to Uberflip with a lot of overlap on features and functionality, including forms, CTAs, and integrations with Salesforce, Hubspot, Marketo, and other marketing technologies.
One of the more recent trends is a headless CMS. A headless CMS is essentially a “backend” of the CMS (i.e. where you organize, upload, and write content) without the “website” end (i.e. how it gets displayed). Traditionally, CMSs are “full stack” or monolithic – they do everything from top to bottom. Headless CMS decouples how and where the content/images get rendered from the back-end. With a Headless CMS, you can deploy your content across apps, desktop, mobile, or any other device
The upside: you have more flexibility. The downside: marketers need dev resources to deploy the content and there’s no UI to edit or publish; it's more API based.
Examples of headless CMSs:
Static Site Generators
Static site generators are a combination of hand-written HTML and a full blown CMS. You’re not treading into static site generators with no coding experience usually. Static site generators like Jekyll, GitHub Pages, Middleman are powerful and provide a level of customization that is good, but also requires knowledge or development to maintain.
Others CMS options that are not covered:
• Adobe Experience Cloud
It takes a village to write an essay. This was no different. Huge thanks to:
- Jess Joyce for writing this and going through each CMS with a critical eye and evaluating everything.
- Tara Robertson for editing, correcting grammatical errors, and fixing the structure and flow.
- Erin Stripe for reviewing edits
- Alexandra Sifton for reviewing, adding dissenting views, and additional edits.
About Jessica Joyce.
A few lines about your reviewer. Hi. I’m Jess, I’ve been building on the web for over 20 years now. My first website was on Geocities and I would sign up for new free hosting plans monthly so I could build out new ideas - Tripod, Hypermart, Angelfire, and many more were my training grounds.
I built my first blog by just linking HTML pages together manually and I still miss webrings. My first CMS was Greymatter, then Moveable Type, then I jumped to Wordpress. I worked at an agency for five years installing and training humans on a CMS that you will likely not have heard of. I’ve worked with many more CMS(s) throughout the years as the web and content management systems have grown and matured. I am also a SEO consultant by day and have worked at TunnelBear / ScribbleLive / Klick among other agencies throughout Toronto.